Chapter Twelve: Cat’s Eye Luck
It was cold out, telling the world that winter was fast approaching. It hadn’t snowed yet, only being mid-October, but it felt as though the weather was calling for it. The trees were sheading their leaves, leaving piles of golden and crimson colored leaves about the floor. The mornings were becoming darker and chillier.
Xander hunched his shoulders and stuffed his hands in his pockets. A thick red scarf was wrapped around his neck and covered most of his face. He didn’t like the cold. When he was ten it was the mid fifteen hundreds and it got really cold in the north of England. Caspar tricked him into going outside in a snow storm, saying that a cat was having her kittens in the alley across the street. Being foolish and warm hearted, he went out and got caught in the blizzard, winning himself horrible frostbite and his bother a good beating.
Ironically, as he was passing an alleyway on his way to buy something nice for Rosemary, as an apology for hurting her in the hall the other day. She hadn’t spoken to him for days after and he still felt horrible for even going that far with her. When he passed the alley he heard a soft mewl. Stopping in his tracks, he froze and listened for another sound, wondering if it was all in his head. Sure enough there was another little meow.
Peering into the shaded alley, he spotted a large cardboard box beside a grossly green garbage can. Following the sound of the soft mewls, he popped open the lid of the box and found a fluffy (but a little matted and dirty) white kitten staring up at him with one bright blue eye and one golden. Xander frowned and picked up the ball of fur. It purred and nuzzled his chin.
It had been a while since Xander had even owned a cat himself. Theodosia loved cats of all kinds and at one point even owned a large black panther named Vera. During that time it was normal to have exotic pets in London, all the high class people were doing it; except not many went as far as to walk around a huge panther on a leash around central London. Although Xander shared his mother’s love for cats, his twin brother hated them. Caspar held a great fear for the domestic animal and stayed away from the house when Vera was around, half the reason Theodosia bought the cat in the first place. The cold hearted boy wasn’t afraid of his brother’s wrath as much as his mother’s and beat Xander’s beloved tabby, Rex, to death with a brick.
So there wasn’t a way that Xander could keep him with Caspar slinking about the mansion and there was no way he was going to leave the kitten out in the cold. Stuffing the ball of fluff into his jacket for warmth, he made his way quietly to Rosemary’s. He kept his head down and hat tight down over his ears. Xander didn’t want to risk the chance that his brother would see him.
Penelope was out at work, so Rosemary sat upstairs with Althea playing Barbie’s. Althea tapped about a brunette doll wearing a black suit and red high heels, she claimed that the dolls name was Billy Prude and she was a sophisticated medium. With a sigh, Rosemary held a blonde Barbie with a long white dress and had to be the ghost. They were half way through a pretend séance when there was a knock at the door. Glancing at each other, Rosemary set her doll down and got up, pounding down the stairs.
She opened the door and was greeted by Xander who held out a white-grey ball of fury in the palms of his hands.
“Here, a peace offering.” Xander said breathlessly, cuddling the kitten to his chest. “To say I’m sorry for hurting you the other day. And I’d keep him, but Caspar doesn’t like cats and I don’t want the poor thing to freeze or…”
He was rambling, a thing he only did when he was really nervous or cold, and right now he was both. Rosemary looked at him then to the little cat which stared at her with two different colored eyes and meowed happily. Folding her arms she scowled at him, remembering her anger for the other day.
“We can’t afford a cat.” She said stubbornly, leaning a hip against the doorframe.
“Yes we can!” Althea dashed in and snatched the cat from Xander’s arms. Holding it out and gazing into its eyes she smiled one of her few smiles. “He won’t die until I’m well into college. Thank you!”
The little red head dashed off back up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door shut. Rosemary sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Xander as still there, looking at her pitifully like she had just kicked a puppy. Finally she stepped aside and gestured for him to come inside.
“Better come in, you’ll freeze out there.”
Settled in the kitchen with his coat and gloves on the heater, he watched her bustle about making some hot chocolate for the three of them. She multitasked boiling the milk, getting the mugs out of the cupboard, finding the hot chocolate mix and crawling around the pantry looking for a tin of tuna for the kitten. Rosemary didn’t seem like the person who could keep themselves idle for very long. And he found that he didn’t mind that characteristic about her, but it did get a bit irritating having to follow her about with his eyes when the conversation started.
“So why did you give me a cat as a ‘sorry I slammed you into the locker’ present?” she questioned, reaching up to grab a mug.
“I didn’t-” Xander sighed and ran a hand down his face. Girls… “I didn’t mean to push you into the locker’s that rough, I just forgot my own strength.” He paused and listened to Althea’s childish voice that drifted from the stairs. It sounded like she was dressing the cat up. “And I found him in an alley, all alone and it’s cold outside. I’d keep him but-” she glanced over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow, showing that she was listening to him. “-my brother doesn’t like cats and I don’t know about my sister… so it’s just safer here.”
Rosemary nodded. “My dad’s allergic to cats, but he’s rarely home.”
She scooped a spoonful of coco powder and dumped it into a mug. “And the last pet we had was a hamster and he died when Althea was just learning how to talk. So it’s probably good for her.”
“I see.” He said slowly, turning to play with his ring.
“Mm-hmm,” she hummed, putting the coco powder away and dropping the spoon in the sink. “So you have a brother and a sister? I didn’t think you had a family.”
She set a mug down in front of him, one next to him and retreated to the seat in front of him with her own. “The way you always acted made me think you had a single mom and a rough life. No offence.”
He took a sip and smiled at the warmth. “I wish, but no. I’ve got a silent father, a bitchy mother, an evil twin brother and a wacky little sister.” He let out a small chuckle. “Don’t even get me started on extended family.”
Rosemary studied him for a moment with a small smile, sipping her hot chocolate thoughtfully. They could still hear Althea upstairs talking to the kitten like it was a little toddler. She was no doubt dressing the poor animal up and naming it something dreadfully sweet.
Xander glanced at the still steaming mug of hot coco, wondering if Rosemary was going to call her sister down to join them
“Is she going to…?”
The red head raised her hand to quiet him and began to silently count on her fingers. One, two, three…
Small feet stumbled down the stairs and pounded along the halls until Althea burst into the kitchen, clutching the white kitten to her chest. The cat was wearing a pink bonnet and a yellow bib; surprisingly the little cat seemed just as happy as it was when it was in Xander’s arms.
Sitting down in her chair, Althea set the kitten in her lap and pat its head. Her tiny hands wrapped around the mug and she took a sip. Placing the mug down again, she licked her lips and stared at Xander, her chocolate eyes narrowing. For a moment they locked eyes and it seemed to her that he was begging her not to say a word about not being able to see his fate line. To his astonishment the young girl gave a slight nod and took another sip.
“Althea, this is Xander.” Said Rosemary gently to her sister. “He’s in my gym class…”
The red head didn’t answer and instead drank her hot chocolate in silence. Her older sister only sighed and apologized to Xander, telling him that Althea was just very shy and didn’t like to talk to others. They sat in awkward silence until Althea had finished, put her mug in the sink and left again, dragging the kitten with her.
Rosemary ran a hand through her hair. Her sister just didn’t like opening up to others and it scared her. Because of her shy and reclusive behavior, other kids tended to avoid her and leave her alone completely. She was constantly picked on and called stupid names because of her hair color. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was how the loneness sometimes caught up to her and Rosemary would wake up some nights and hear her baby sister crying, which wasn’t like her. As her older sister, there was only so much she could do.
Finally, when they heard the door slam to Althea’s bedroom, Rosemary spoke.
“I worry about her.” She confessed. “Do you worry about your sister?”
This innocent question caught Xander off guard. Inhaling a bit of the hot liquid, he quickly tried not to cough it up like an idiot and thought of an answer. To be honest he had never thought of it. Did he worry about Cassandra? Of course not, she could take care of herself and she had the twins to guard her and hunt for her. But the more he thought about it, the more he remembered all those years ago when he used to hold his baby sister’s tiny hand and walk her through the crowded streets of Oxford. He remembered how he would pick her up and awkwardly carry her over puddles and piles of dung on the streets.
Back then, Cassandra couldn’t take care of herself and it was way back then that he always worried about her wellbeing and safety. After Caspar corrupted her innocent and pure mind, she became more violent and vicious, borderline insane. And he hated what his precious little sister had become. So yes, maybe he did worry about her now more than ever. He worried about her when she left the house without the twins, what she would be up to, who she was going to kill and if she would get away before being caught. He worried about her when she went to her Private school out of town, what she would do the other kids or what they would try on her. He panicked about what she talked to Caspar about behind closed doors and what garbage he told her that she would eat up like cake. Yes, he worried.
“Yeah,” he said tiredly. “Yeah, I worry all the time.”
Xander looked away. Reminding himself that he was a failure of an older brother put a damper on things. Rosemary only put a hand over his and gave him a gentle smile and a few comforting words.
Glancing at the clock Rosemary, tapped her hands on the table and stood. Collecting the empty mugs she sat them in the sink and grabbed his coat and gloves off the heater. Xander followed her to the front door. He hated that their time together was short lived, but he wasn’t complaining. Something is better than nothing.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “But mom will be home in five minutes.” Blushing, she added, “And she doesn’t really-”
“Yeah, I know.” Xander said softly, taking his coat and gloves from her. He tugged them on and kissed her cheek. “See you.”
Her hand went to her cheek, finger tips gently touching her reddening skin. “Bye…”
Rosemary was washing the last mug when Penelope came bustling in. Her hair was tussled and frizzy from the cold and her skin was paler than usual. She was carrying two brown paper bags with groceries in them. Setting them on the counter she leant over and placed a kiss on top of Rosemary’s head. Her daughter laughed and welcomed her home and asked how her day was.
Penelope gave her a full detailed layout of her day while slipping off her gloves and taking things out of the bags and put them on the counter. She rambled on about how the restaurant was busy and someone called in to say they would be late and she had to work an extra half an hour. The line at the bank was too long and the ATM was out of order. The only good thing about her day was the lovely carrot cake she bought at the store.
“Where’s your sister?” Penelope asked, putting the eggs in the refrigerator.
“Upstairs. Oh, that reminds me.” Rosemary stopped rummaging through the bags and looked up at her mother. “A friend from school found this stray little kitten and brought it over. Althea’s already attached…”
Penelope clicked her tongue and collected the vegetables, marching over to the refrigerator again. “I don’t know, Rosie. Your father’s allergic and a cat is a big responsibility. I’m going to be the one stuck cleaning the cat box and feeding it.”
“Yeah, I know.” Agreed Rosemary, jumping up on the counter. “But Althea’s never really had a pet. It might be good for her. You know how she doesn’t like to get attached to things if they die young.”
“Sometimes I don’t like to think about it.” Mumbled her mother, pausing and staring out the window before she trotted over to the pantry. “But you’re right; it’ll be good for her. Did she tell you what she named it?”
They turned, startled, to find Althea standing in the threshold. She was pushing a stroller with the white kitten sitting in it. He was wearing a pink bonnet and a frilly white dress. The poor thing even had a pacifier in its mouth. Still, it looked happy and content and there weren’t any scratched marks on Althea, so he clearly didn’t put up a fight. Althea wore one of Penelope’s summer dresses, a pair of black heels and a large floppy sun hat.
“His name is Shawn.” She repeated, starting up at them seriously.
Penelope sighed at her strange daughter and smiled, glancing down at the little kitten. “Shawn’s a lovely name, Althea.”
It was later that night, when everyone in the DeVald house was fast asleep that a strange visitor crept into their backyard. His tall, lanky body cast shadows wherever the moon’s silver beams touched. He was quiet and light on his feet. Climbing up to the second story, he found the room he was looking for. But upon peering into the window he was horrified at his findings.
Lying peacefully in her bed was Rosemary, her back to him and her breathing shallow and steady. Curled up at her feet was a little ball of white fur. Caspar let out a small gasp and bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from doing something stupid.
The kitten opened its ice blue eye and watched him until he climbed back down and ran out of the yard, not once looking back.
Blinking back sleep, Rosemary sat up and turned to her window. Shawn was sitting on the windowsill, his short fluffy tail swishing this way and that. His mismatch eyes were staring out into the backyard as a squirrel leapt off a tree and onto the ground.
Chuckling slightly, she patted him for a few minutes before her head dropped back down on her pillow and she fell into a deep sleep.